Look the World in the Eyes

Death, an actor, a tigress, a UFC fighter, a yoga teacher, and a hippie walk into a bar…

Advertisements

I’m having an identity crisis. Partially. It makes sense. Losing a parent and experiencing life changes cause some interesting feelings and impulses to arise. What’s familiar, is the part of me that has always been fascinated with trying on new hats, new activities, and new versions of myself. It’s the part of me always seeking to evolve, shed my old skins, integrate my past, and burst forth into my present. Like a child deciding what to be when they grow up, I feel like I’ve been all over the place; I am perpetually wanderlust and curious.

The past few years could be summarized as “I’ll be a dancer, I’ll be an actor, I’ll date women, I’ll go back to men, I’ll dye my hair blonde, I’ll be a pole dancer, I’ll be vegan, I’ll be anything but vegan, I’ll be a teacher, I’ll dye my hair purple, I’ll be a mixed martial arts fighter, I’ll backtrack, I’ll go hiking, I’ll stop everything, I’ll go back to it, I’ll get a tattoo, I’ll get four tattoos, I’ll go meditate, I’ll go throw myself in the grass and dance until grass stains are permanently in my leggings, and now I know myself. Now I don’t…ah! Yep, that’s totally me.”

Perhaps this is what is supposed to happen in the years called the 20s. I’ve enjoyed it thus far. Though I’ve been in this ebb and flow rhythm with myself before, it feels uncharacteristically unstructured lately.

It feels like this bedroom: a scattered mess of my past meets my present in unorganized piles across different parts of the floor. Off the ground, my bookshelf and nightstand appear neatly organized. The spines of the books are colorfully lined up in their rows. At a glance, they are well arranged, but in content, they are all over the place. Ronda Rousey’s My Fight/Your Fight sits next to the The Soul of Rumi by Coleman Barks. A couple books down is Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, and Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes. The second shelf has a row of theater books and binders of music that I kept from college, followed by yoga teacher training books on the shelf below that. The very bottom has an interesting blend of school yearbooks and equestrian manuals like the USDF Guide to Dressage. Intermixed with all these books include trinkets and nature things, like a California pinecone, a stick from a favorite tree in New York, a child’s “First Baptism” porcelain night light cover, a mini Jameson bottle from a Los Angeles film shoot in a liquor store, a basket of shells, some playbills, and a pair of sunglasses. When I list all of this, I’m not worried about how it all goes together. It makes sense. It just is. I feel comforted in my multifaceted experiences and interests. It may be an odd combination to some, but to me, it radiates authenticity.

The hardest part about writing these posts consistently is that it is challenging to find the lessons when I am in the middle of learning them. It is easier to look back over the past few months and tell you how perfectly timed it all was that I moved to New York when I did, how perfect it was that I moved back home in time to be with my mom in her last month on Earth, how moving from Krav Maga out east to an MMA gym back home set up my foundation for classes and grounded my energy like none other. I can connect the dots and say how everything came together to make me physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually strong for this transition time. It’s easier to look back and say, “that’s what it was all about!” while looking forward can feel like a daunting shadow of “um…what’s next? I can’t see a thing.”

I saw my first cage fight a few weeks ago and felt exhilarated. I told my trainer and gym family that I wanted to do that someday. Yesterday, I read articles on horrible brain damage that can happen from MMA, and it was disheartening. Of course, it probably is never a good idea to get the shit beat out of you, but the intention is to win fiercely. No one signs up to lose. I love training for something that requires extreme discipline and physical conditioning. It’s the dancer in me that thrives when her life is structured around an ambitious goal, a major performance, and a chance to be in the spotlight. Is it an ego driven desire? Maybe. Probably. It’s so “out there,” and I like it.

I’d only fight if I knew dead certain that I would win mercilessly. However, to be a merciless person is not in my default nature. I’m writing a yoga blog, I talk to dragonflies when I need their advice, I walk barefoot to align my energy with mother nature, and I am my mother’s daughter. Like the life she led, I’ll fight for justice, stand for love, and speak my truth with compassion, power, and eloquence, but naturally, I wouldn’t gravitate toward blood and violence for sport, entertainment, or a possible career. And as an amateur, is the risk of injury and impact worth the experience? After reading some horror stories and finishing Rousey’s memoir, I’ve developed mixed feelings about the MMA sport. There’s so much ego. There must be. There’s no room to be considerate of your opponent. Everything happens so fast. It seems like the minute one person thought of anything besides winning, they’d end up with a brutal beat down to the end. Yet, damn, it’s just so exciting!

Most people know me for my lightness of being and free spirit. I know I’ve surprised some friends and family with my passion for fighting, but I’ve also inspired other women to find their inner fire and look the world in the eyes. I love that phrase. I used to take photographs or make dance videos where I danced more internally, or posed with my gaze low in a coy way. There’s power in eye contact. On a literal and figurative level, I regularly stare back, fiercely. I don’t look away or minimize myself to what is “appropriate” or traditionally feminine. I love an audience, but a great artist makes people uncomfortable. I like breaking out of whatever box someone has put me in. I would much rather be a tigress in the jungle, than a doe in the woods.

Back to the science of knockouts and the dangers of the sport, I begun to feel discouraged about where this fighting journey would lead, wondering if I should adjust my goals, and how I could train hard, have fun, and not destroy myself. My dad reminded me that the goal of the dojo and the martial arts master, was to master the body and the mind. It was intended so that one would have the skills to fight, to be able to defend themselves and their community, but the knowledge, discipline, and restraint to use it only when necessary. Though I currently train at a competitive mixed martial arts gym I love, where my friends are amazing, savage fighters, perhaps I’ll later join a dojo as well, for balance with a more traditional martial art style.

Time will reveal what this training becomes for me. It’s natural to want to be the best and aspire for the Ultimate Fighting Championship, like when I’ve wanted to be on Broadway or in Hollywood for the pinnacle of an acting career. It’s satisfying to pursue something to the max. To say I’ve acted on both coasts as a professional, is amazing.

On a day to day level, I’m deeply grateful for this sport, my community, and our trainers. Thus far, it has helped prepare me for this challenging life chapter, where I’m now traveling without the greatest warrior and hero of my life, my Momma. Perhaps I train in mixed martial arts to become the healthiest, strongest, most athletic version of myself I can be. Perhaps that training becomes my conditioning for another athletic endeavor to come.

My mom gave me a name that she thought would make an awesome professional golfer. I’ve thought of that a lot, though I never really got into golf. Bonnie Bairley: The actor? The fighter? The author? The choreographer? The activist?

The being. I’ll choose that for now. Titles may provide a career trajectory or show where we ideally could go with our passions, but at this moment, I’d like to abandon all my current titles, and the prospective ones I might consider taking on someday. The truth is, at this moment, I’m not willing to die for MMA glory. I might not ever be a world champion in the sport because of that. Maybe I’m just not willing to risk it all like Ronda Rousey talked about her in memoir. It’s cool. I’m digging the journey. Who knows, I might surprise myself.

Perhaps it will end up as a book on my shelf: “Healing the Caged Soul – Finding the Spirituality in Combat Sports.” Who would write a book like that? That brings two seemingly opposite things together? Only the crazy, ever flowing, Bonnie “the Bridge” Bairley. 😊

When the Student is Ready, the Teacher Appears

Lessons from a cockroach, the end of a theater show, and the perspective of living spiritually in NYC.

It is 3:25 a.m. on a Sunday morning in Brooklyn, NY. I’m sitting on my bed with recently burnt sage, two crystals and a feather, a stack of Native Spirit oracle cards, a space heater, some incense, and a bottle of spray vinegar on the floor. I wanted to go to bed way before this moment, because I have the closing matinee show of Macbeth to perform, and all of these emotions of parting way with a cast that has become such a home to my heart. My parents are sleeping in the living room, and about two hours ago, Mom and I had a good cry about life, the journey, and all that is. Though I feel sleepy as can be, my reason for being awake is one that could be considered “classic New York” and “classic Spirit/yogi vibes.” As much as I cringe to see their name in words, I’m about to talk about cockroaches, but instead of calling them that, I’m going to refer to them as ceebeetles (see-beetles). Shakespeare made up lots of words, so here is one from me to you. 🙂

Ceebeetles were the first thing in New York to test my yogi principals of ahimsa (non-violence/non-harming). Most of the time, before this move, I would take bugs outside, or have a roommate take out the scarier spiders. The first time I saw a ceebeetle in my apartment, it wasn’t that big; it took me a while to even figure out what these little things were. The only ceebeetles I had been familiar with, were the ones in the auditorium bathrooms of the theater department in college. We’d find them hiding by the trash can, or laying on their back, dead. Perhaps they were preparing the New York dreamers for their apartments? The ones at school were probably two to three inches long, compared to these little brown and black things that were barely the length of my pinkie finger’s nail (at the smallest), to the first knuckle mark (at the largest). My awesome roommate cracked the window open and released this little one out to the green space, per my request, and my concern to be compassionate to all forms of life.

Well…

Within a couple weeks, I started taking Krav Maga classes, a form of self-defense that was developed by the Israeli military and translates to “contact combat.” It seemed like the most epic form of martial arts I could train in, and after recently having a fling with a fighter, and moving to the largest city in America, I figured, “why date a man who can fight, when I can fight for myself?” It was an added bonus that the men in class weren’t bad looking, but after bonding with fierce women and taking some ground fighting classes, I realized pretty quickly that these guys were my brothers who’d do that hand-slapping-fist-bump handshake with you, rather than try and pick you up for drinks. I was digging the newfound community.

However, Krav had interesting effects on me. At first, I felt like a badass who could make it through boot camp workouts and had a lot more strength than she realized. A bit later, I started to feel kind of on edge. I was walking around, going over moves in my head, and thinking about what I would do if threatening strangers came up to me. I was aware of my surroundings, but I started to feel like I was anticipating street fights. One time a fight broke out on a subway train I was riding, and I couldn’t decide in the adrenaline whether or not to intervene and help this woman, or get off at the next stop. I talked to other passengers about what to do, they yelled to the person to stop, and we all exited at the next stop (aside from the distraught man who started the fight). I checked in with the woman involved after, went to the street, and took an Uber home.

Eventually, I took a break from Krav because of my new theater rehearsal schedule, starting another job, and wanting to return to my yoga self of believing in the love that surrounds us all. Ultimately, every one in New York is vulnerable. Walking outside is a daily act of tremendous trust. We might all look tough and stride about like we have it all together, but we also can be seen crying on the subway or having a rough day. A smile, a hug, that person who gives change to a charity, or the genuine souls who want to help a lost traveler figure out how to get to their destination, can make all the difference in seeing New York as a city of love. What energy we send out, surely does return and multiply. I didn’t want to send out the energy of fighting and defense. I wanted to send out and receive loving kindness.

Except to those damn ceebeetles.

I started killing them like nobody’s business. I deep cleaned the kitchen for many nights, and my roommates and I started taking precautions to prevent them from growing. We persisted to kill their food and water source, spray them, crush them, and bag them in Ziploc “body bags” as we threw them out. We were seeing a huge decrease in their numbers and the frequency that they appeared on the counter. I was pretty sure we knocked most of them out.

I hadn’t done oracle card readings in a while, so I lit some sage, turned on my small lamp, set a burning candle burning on my dresser, and placed the crystals and feather in a half circle on my bed. I drew cards for my relationships, which revealed a theme about shapeshifting, changing perspectives, becoming new things, and going inward, as one being an owl, soaring overhead of all that is going on.

The second spread of cards was for my career. The themes in this category had to do with being at the right place at the right time, trusting my intuition, focusing my energy on a few select things I value (rather than being all scattered in many different activities – a challenge to do here), rooting in, being like a tree in an ancient forest, offering my energy and spirit to the world, and so forth. It felt like a comforting reading; a confirmation to keep going in the same direction. As I finished the last card, something caught my eye, walking across the baseboard of my room. With the lights dimmed, it looked less scary, but I freaked out just the same, knowing exactly what it was. I leaped out of my bed and started swearing, but was also aware that the entire apartment was sleeping. I knew this creepy creature was a spirit guide, entering right at the end of summoning the native spirits to come through in these cards. What also made it more pronounced was its size: nearly three inches long, or about the size of my pinkie finger. I had never seen one that big in this apartment, let alone strolling in my room. It was moving slowly, so as I debated and squirmed about whether to kill it with a shoe, take it outside, or grab the Raid, I did the last option: bolting to the kitchen, grabbing that spray, and poisoning it. It died in one of my LED candles, which caught its fall, after it tried to climb the top of a draw in my cube organizer and fell back down.

I found a way to remove its body from my things, but had to keep telling myself “life is grand, life is wonderful” and later, “everything’s okay, everything’s awesome,” as I finally got it secured in a body bag without looking directly at it. I took the bag outside, stomped on it on the sidewalk, threw it in the trash, and said “now, don’t you ever come back here.” I walked back up the stoop and paused to say, “Well, I appreciate your message. Good luck in your next life.”

I looked up the animal medicine totem for these creatures (what I usually do when an animal or creature crosses my path). On the Angelic Vibrations site for the letter C, ceebeetles are known as emotional and spiritual shapeshifters, teaching the art of adaptability and ultimate survival instincts under any conditions. The author writes that they teach perseverance, going with the flow of events, how to keep in touch with the world around you, how to strengthen vitality and the quickness of movement, how to discern when and how to move, and how to make use of available resources. Beetles in general, are said to aid in transformation, metamorphosis, resurrection, and rebirth; they offer a protective quality that will aid in socializing and communicating effectively to illuminate problems and situations in the correct perspective. Among other things, the author concludes that “the beetle teaches persistence with charm, trust in the process, proper movement, and proper actions which allow regeneration of your spirit to prosper.”

Before this all got started, a card from the Hare Krishna devotees I met in the subway, fell from my bookshelf, as I pulled my deck of cards out. I’m letting it remain on the floor for now; a message of where my next place to go will be on my first rehearsal-free Wednesday. It’s bittersweet to be in transition, parting with a tribe of people that all were brought together for a short amount of time. One of my castmates is moving out of the state on Monday, and he feels like the third brother I didn’t know I had. There are new opportunities that await all of us, but resistance to change is such a part of life. It was one of the factors within myself that began this blog. I wanted to write to process and share these small moments that snowball into a whole new hour, day, week, month, and year. If someone would have told me what I would be doing right now, on this day, at this time, I would have laughed and probably said, “Oh my gosh, I hope my sleeping habits improve, and I’m not actually up writing about the bugs in my apartment.” But honestly, I’m grateful that I could. I’m grateful that I could jump up out of the bed and be next to the door. I’m grateful that everything happened, as creepy as it was, exactly how it did.

When you break down the yogi, she has no clue where she’s going, and as a fan of Trevor Hall, she’s starting to learn about what he mentioned in his A Night in the Village Tour. “In the West, we have this need to explain everything. Almost too much. We over explain, and it’s not always necessary.” He talked about the lyrics behind his song ‘Unity,’ inspired by the teachings of a mystic from India: “I don’t want to count the leaves of the mango tree, I just want to taste its sweetness.” Because you don’t need to know how many leaves are on that tree, nor do you need to know every minute detail; all that matters is that the tree bears delicious fruit. Enjoy it. Likewise, we don’t all need to know what the future will look like, or if every decision we are making is “right” for the path of our lives. All we need to know is that we’re here, doing something, and hopefully, it is bringing us back home to our truest soul. If we follow what excites us, follow the bliss, and seek the beauty in the ceebeetles of our lives, we might find annoyances like little blessings: testing our patience, making us pause, and helping us shapeshift into another perspective.

May Mercury’s and Jupiter’s retrograde treat you well, may you celebrate the full moon time with the fullness of your being and the ones that fill your heart. And for all you have yet to know and understand, Trevor Hall is a great friend to have on your journey (and your playlist).

From ‘What I Know,’ Fruitful Darkness Part I album:

“What I know, is that I don’t know
And now I dance and I sing and I live for,
I give it all to the call of the unknown a’ho,
What I say, is that I don’t say,
And now I rest no stress in the Holy Name,
All fears and my tears give it all away
I play, like a child of the earth”

unknown.jpg

**Trevor Hall, A Night in the Village Tour, at Murmrr, Brooklyn, NY — March 11, 2018**

Blessings, xoxo

~Bonnie

For the Love of Everything, Please Make Yourself Uncomfortable

Discomfort is like birth into a new world: it’s messy, painful, expansive, and the most invigorating rite of passage.

There are two different notions that come to my mind when I think of ways to be successful: one is to struggle, sacrifice, and give everything you’ve got to “make it.” The other is to live simply, “let things come to you,” and strive to rank your inner peace as the marker of success (rather than wealth, job title, or number of social media followers). I’ve gone in waves of an ambitious performer seeking recognition, to a yoga teacher simply wanting to live in the mountains. Up until this year began, I had adopted the belief that living comfortably was more important than living stressed out and chasing a goal filled with struggle. From this TEDx Talk – “Why Comfort Will Ruin Your Life” – and in my own recent move to New York City, I’m finding that the sweet spot of inner growth and success lies right in the middle of two opposite ends: living stagnant, and living in chaos.

Perhaps we’ve always known this, like how balance on one leg comes from opposite forces meeting each other head-on, creating pressure, and stabilizing the body in between. The foot presses into the floor, sending energy down to the ground, and the floor presses into the foot with equal force (otherwise we might just fall through the floorboards). If you get a group of yogis together to come into a one legged balance and have them hold out their hands and press into each others palms, the room will have a greater chance of balancing for a longer period of time. If one person presses too much into their partner, and that partner does not push back with equal force, their balance will both be thrown off, and they will likely stumble out of the posture.

What does this mean off the mat? It means that it is imperative to surround ourselves with people who will push us, perhaps even provoke us to act. We need to choose partners, be it romantically, platonically, or professionally, that challenge us. As individuals, we must keep ourselves accountable and challenge our own limits to find out what we are truly capable of achieving. Our inner growth cannot be compromised for what is “easy.”

Comfort is easy to settle for: a familiar face to wake up next to, a job that offers numerous benefits and security, a city or town that feels relatively safe, a story we tell about ourselves that hasn’t changed too much, and that food we crave to eat, even when it might be causing that illness we’re starting to notice.

Even in writing that description of possible comfort items, I’d be lying to say that they don’t sound nice. If you have that job, that person, that security, etc., congratulations! I’m sure it has had its ups, downs, beautiful moments, and difficult moments. However, it is true that nothing lasts forever. Security can be temporarily found in people, jobs, places, and so on, but ultimately, the one thing we always have in this life is our own being (until that too passes). Like in the above TEDx Talk, one lay off can change that stable job. A car accident can lead to the loss of a significant other, a mass shooting can change a small community that felt “safe,” and as awful as those things truly are, they can be our greatest teachers in leading us to make powerful choices and value our time to the best of our ability.

Within the first few days of walking around New York as a resident and not a visitor, I felt a whole range of emotions. I felt on guard to people and wondered how I’d fall in love while walking so damn fast all the time. I cried by a tree in Central Park and felt totally alone, but also at home with the birds, the sunshine, and my breath while letting myself slow down. I laughed in a bar and made new friends who were awesome. I went to a ballet class and felt so alive, invigorated, and happy as can be for the whole day. The night brought me down a bit later, when an experience with a man shocked me back to a past lover. I interviewed for a temp agency after the Port Authority explosion delayed my arrival, after not having any of my materials with me, and feeling so unprepared, questioning if an office life was something I was okay with. I had the urge to teach yoga like none other and feel reconnected to my purpose. While standing in a line at Whole Foods, feeling like cattle in a line for whatever checkout counter would call us, I thought, “Is any of this real? Does any of this actually matter?” This run on of sentences and events represents what my mind began to feel and look like. Chaos and a dash of calm contentment.

The next day, I went to 5Rhythms after getting lost and being delayed (again). Before the second wave of movement, the teacher gave a poem and reading about Chanukah. The direction was to stand in complete darkness with our being before lighting the first candle. I found this symbolic in being with the darkness in myself. Lately, I had been avoiding total, literal darkness. I wanted some kind of light in my bedroom, or the light of the moon before bed. Even with my former lover I trusted back home, the minute he turned the lights out for bed on our last night, I found that I could not be in darkness with myself. A fear crept over me, and I felt abandoned in a suddenly unrecognizable room. If I could not see him, and he could not see me, it didn’t matter if there was a being beside me, I felt a new fear of being alone in the dark. Perhaps timing had something to do with this reaction too. I was leaving what felt like lots of people behind, closing a beautiful chapter of my life, and experiencing a moment of darkness that felt like the beginning of traveling solo.

When the 5Rhythms circle was open to share reflections after the reading, I expressed to the group how I was feeling heavily weighted in energy and not wanting to dance around per usual. I basically said, “I love to dance, I really do, but all I want to do is sit on the floor and not move. That’s weird to me.” The teacher’s response:

“Give into the heaviness. Make it huge. That feeling often comes when something is about to shift.”

Those words began to crack my perspective bit by bit. I started to realize that this feeling of being high and crashing low, having fear and seeking love, wanting to run away from everything that feels hard about New York and this path, yet deeply knowing that here was where I was supposed to be, was the feeling of giving birth to something.

I’ve never been pregnant or given literal, physical birth, but these days felt like contractions or being in labor with my dreams — I would attempt to expand and prepare myself to leap forward, and something would pull me back and close me off. I wanted to keep my bright free spirit, but began to notice how quickly that could be taken advantage of. I had to be my own protector and be strong. Yet, I longed for my parents or a warrior man to be beside me instead, so I could keep dancing around with the pigeons, believing the world is a playground of magic (I still believe that, by the way…).

I realized that this “child” made of a dream of being an artist in New York, has been growing in me for about ten years. It was that “child” who said, “We can’t stay in Michigan anymore. I need to go home. I need to be in the place I’ve been telling you to go for years. Let me be free. Let me go there. It’s time.” Whether or not this “child” will stay with me or eventually evolve into something else is to be determined, but the message was clear: I had to follow this dream into the depths of discomfort because here is where it needs to be initiated and birthed into the city. The same city that planted its seed long ago. To do anything else would be to risk a miscarriage and lose what has been precious to me most of my life.

I began watching Marvel’s The Punisher on Netflix a few days ago. On episode three, the Punisher, Frank, is holding a character named Micros hostage, and he speaks about the value of routine while torturing him: “Pain. You can get used to pain. You can adjust to it. You can adjust to pretty much anything. Just as long as there’s routine, right? Routine, human mind, craves it. Needs it. But if you take that away, that’s when you start to lose your shit.”

Routine is important. Having some level of predictability in every day life can create a grounding stability. It’s like recovering from a loss and not knowing what to do, so we might clean the house, or make breakfast, or try to do one small thing at a time that feels like normalcy. We may relish in paying the credit card bill or going to work because it feels like we are moving forward. What is familiar allows us space to process and root in. We may find new patterns of behavior that help to ease our pain, like a daily walk we’re now taking, or that evening drink that takes the edge off. We remember the sun always rises after the previous day became a dark night.

I believe it’s true, we can adjust to pretty much anything. We are resilient beings. We were meant to evolve, and from Gloria Steinem’s My Life on the Road book, she and others would support the idea that we were always meant to be nomadic creatures; exploring, staying curious, and expanding our view of the world.

My message of this post is like a tarot card reading I received in August, when I was told that this year would be filled with tough decisions: “Choose the choice that is harder to make.”

I firmly believe that choosing the more uncomfortable path will lead you to the greatest rewards. The more impossible it seems, the more likely you are to grow into your best self. By doing the very thing you fear, you will expand beyond what you thought you could be. This doesn’t mean staying in a relationship that is abusive, or forcing yourself to pursue a path or job that no longer fits you. As we grow and change, our values may shift, and life may ask us for an honest reassessment before moving forward. If we take the time to do so, we are more likely to walk forth with conscious awareness as to why, how, and with what intention we seek to manifest as we take our next steps.

May be you be awake and aware to the You that is ever present.

May you evolve, constantly.

May you birth something incredible out of your very breath, being, and existence.

With love and with play,

~Bonnie

 

IMG_3128.JPG

When Inspiration Takes a Vacation, Get Up Sexy!

**this title is a shout-out to Vixen Fitness — no matter where you land on the floor, at the bottom of the pole, or in life, “get up sexy” and just keep dancing**

When I first started writing this blog, it was a moment of pure inspiration. I was sitting at my dining room table around midnight, when I got this sudden urge to write a message that kept repeating in my head. From there, I let the words flow out into a piece called “I’m Only Light Because I Have Darkness.” The next month, the post followed a similar sort of tone: “Learning to Live in the Tides – Making Peace with Perpetual Change.” I was drawn to write about this light and dark contrast. I felt in constant reflection about the yin and yang energies of my life. In both of those posts, I ended up publishing them on the seventh of each month. When October 7th approached, I wondered if I would continue this pattern, but with feeling scattered in the wind most of this month, I simply couldn’t think of anything that seemed substantial to write about. How was I to write some fabulous words of wisdom if I felt totally not grounded and uninspired? Perhaps I would skip writing for October and resume at a later point, but now I’m here, the third post, and whether the timing is “good” or “bad” is not a thought in my mind. This is the right choice. This is the right time for me. I’d like to think it’s also the right time for anyone who chooses to read this. Welcome!

One of my favorite books on inspiration and living as a creative being is Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert. As an actor and an artist, I loved reading about Gilbert’s relationship to ideas as magical forces that come to us in order to be made manifest into being. If we do not take action in bringing an idea to fruition, it will leave us, in order to be made through someone else who is willing to co-create with Creativity. I capitalize that word in remembering a chapter where she writes about how Fear and Creativity are partners; whenever we do anything creative, Fear will always come along for the ride. However, it is our duty to give Fear a talk in more or less words of: “I know you are simply looking out for me and want me to be safe, but know that on this journey, Creativity and I will be driving the car. You are welcome to hop in the backseat because you insist on coming, but you cannot touch the radio, you cannot look at the map, and you certainly cannot give us advice on directions.”

Inspiration truly is like magic. When returning to the roots of the word “inspire,” it literally means to inflame, or to blow into or upon. When we get an idea, or when the Universe brings everything together in perfect synchronicity, it can feel as if being kissed by a life force, feeling its breath upon us. It is a comforting reassurance that whispers “hey, good job, kid. You’re on the right path!” When I had graduated this past May from my BFA Acting program, secured an agent in New York, and had a sublet lined up in Brooklyn, I didn’t know what the Universe was trying to tell me when my Mom received her cancer diagnosis, which brought me back to my small town in Michigan, without a clue what to do next. Within a week being back home, I found out that a gym in town was hiring a yoga instructor. The next week, I booked a second teaching job at the town’s actual yoga studio. By the end of the month, through attending an ecstatic dance meditation group in a larger city, I met a filmmaker who brought me on board for her feature film in Los Angeles. At this time, I had been shifting from musical theatre into film acting; this opportunity appeared as if from thin air, just a few days after I had some Amazon books on on-camera auditioning delivered. Traveling with her for this film allowed me to spend time networking out West, and led me to immerse myself in a world beyond the New York one I knew well, from time spent traveling there over the years.

Though we started the film in Los Angeles in August, we were scheduled to finish the second round of filming in Michigan two months later. As we jumped into round two this past weekend, I was reviewing my lines before my scene, when a director from Encore Michigan’s unified professional auditions (which I attended back in March) had texted me to come audition that evening. I was occupied with the film, but he asked me to text a recent headshot and my height for it to be shown to the show’s producer. Once again, I felt on the magic carpet ride of the Universe, which appeared to be wholeheartedly responding to my energetic vibration of “YES! I am ready to be a working actor now and always!”

All things considered, this story is pretty fantastic. As it continues to unfold, I am deeply grateful to call it part of my path. However, the month leading up to last weekend had me feeling as if inspiration had taken a vacation. I wanted so much and didn’t know how make forward momentum towards my goals. I wanted to pack up and move to New York, but my bank account showed a large “Nope.” I wanted to write consistent yoga teacher blog posts about the power of practice in finding peace with wherever one is at, but I didn’t want to slow down. I didn’t want to practice being able to find peace; I wanted to leap into an audition room, or a ballet class at Steps on Broadway, and find fire, power, and passion. I found a job at an amazing restaurant, but the week of lag time between orientation and starting work led me to seriously consider becoming a stripper so I could dance, have an audience, play a character, and walk out with a large chunk of change instantly. I wanted to work 50 hours a week, I wanted to go the gym every day, I wanted to diet, I wanted to change my hair, I wanted to train to be a competitive pole dancer at the national USPDF competition, I wanted to legitimately date this gorgeous man I was sleeping with, and I wanted all of it immediately. As I watched theater friends on social media post photos from rehearsals, make posts about auditioning in New York, moving to Los Angeles, booking awesome shows, and creating their own podcasts and web series, I had an intense craving to be in the acting game. I felt envious. I felt lost. I felt like I was not measuring up to a standard I had created for myself. I kept trying to remind myself that I would be working in mid-October, when it was back to work on the feature in Michigan, but in the meantime, what was I to do?

(….and what does any of this have to do with yoga? It’s coming…)

I had to make a decision. I had to make multiple decisions. I had to ride the wave of chaos and let it throw me to the rocks. Forcefully. When I did crash on the shore, which in this case, was a random apartment smelling of incense, whiskey, pot, and sex at 3 a.m., I metaphorically broke a few bones and had to take an objective look at where I was at, what I was feeling, what I actually, deeply wanted, and what I was going to do (or not do) about it. What choices did I personally have to make to set healthy boundaries and get back on track? What could I surrender and say “Hey, Universe, you gotta take this weight for me, okay? Thanks!”

My actor friend Yel gave me a meditation to do with trees: acknowledging their presence on Earth that outlasts our own lives, thanking them for their deep roots and wisdom, telling them that we have some negative energy and heavy weight lingering on us, and asking permission for them to take this weight and return it to us in a positive way. After asking for permission, one hugs the tree and releases the issue back to the Earth and to the spiritual realm. I did this a few days ago and felt a wave of relaxation wash over me. It is quite healing and empowering. I highly recommend trying it out.

The first decision I made was to set a date for my New York move. I made the decision to say that I was going back. I let my friends know. I started keeping tabs on apartment listings. I reconnected with old employers based in the city. I wrote to my agent. I looked into acting workshops and film classes. I decided to say “I am doing this. I know there is a lot to be determined. I know that I need a lot more money, new headshots, new jobs, and have to start making those student loans payments in January, along with finding health insurance since I am no longer a full time student, but I am choosing to have more faith than fear. I will find what I need. I will make the money. I will learn a lot, in succeeding or crashing on my face (probably a good combination of both), and I will do it all with great love.”

In my yoga classes lately, I have been teaching with the theme of making choices. To choose to be in a posture. To choose to come to a class. To choose to take that deep breath. To choose to let go of tension. To choose to bear witness to this body. To choose to be here, now. For you. For the community. For whatever your intention, dedication, or focus may be. By remembering the power of choice, we can take back our power over what happens to us. We may even remember that beautiful phrase, “This is not happening to me, this is happening for me.”

When we come into yin class and find ourselves holding a happy baby pose for five minutes, we can choose to be in that posture, rather than being asked to be there by an instructor. In doing so, we take back our autonomy. We can choose to lower our back knee in that crescent warrior or even omit a vinyasa flow in a class because our body has an injury, or because we simply don’t need the extra pushups that day. Maybe yesterday was lifting day, or perhaps our intention was to feel relaxed, and the fire of chatarunga is creating more stress in the mind than we’d like. Sometimes the practice may ask us to push through what we don’t want to do, knowing that what we resist is often what we need more of. Other times, the practice may ask us to make the appropriate modifications for what we need today, backing down from the ego’s desire to uphold the same standard and intensity of yesterday’s practice.

With interviews with great writers and artists, I have read and heard a common theme of “write or create anyway.” Whether you feel inspired or not, keep working, keep going, and keep putting yourself out there. Whether you are a working actor or not, keep workshopping scenes with friends and being creative somehow. Whether you can do splits and handstands or are just starting yoga and can’t touch your toes, keep coming to the mat. Whether you have been married for years or are recently heartbroken, keep staying open to love and the greater possibilities for your relationship(s). Whether you are a graduate student or one who never went to college, keep learning and growing. For all of these, keep going for you. Try not to accomplish things in order to compete with others. In the spirit of yogic philosophy, I want my students to learn that yoga is not about competing with others in the room, it’s about finding unity and becoming one with who you are. On and off the mat, accomplish your dreams to show up for yourself. Keep going because you believe in yourself. If you continue to pursue what you envision for yourself and what makes you feel most alive, you may find that inspiration knocks on your door unexpectedly. When it does, undoubtedly, you will be ready, suitcase in hand, to answer the call and take the plunge to go wherever those Big Magic forces desire to take you.

A rhyme that came to me at the end of this: travel light, and let yourself flow. Who knows who you’ll be or where you will go. You’re never alone, just look around. We’ll figure it out, and we might get down. But you can’t jump high to the tallest trees, if you don’t breathe deep, find your feet, and bend your knees. ❤ 🙂

May you soar to heights you never thought possible, and may you do so with great love, patience, and persistence.

~Bonnie

529007_4434376623278_623318242_n

Above: my high school self, living in the East Village for a summer dance program at Steps; always appreciating a dramatic photoshoot.

Main photo at the top: two of my dear friends I studied in Ireland with — we call ourselves The Three Travellers and love an excellent hike!

 

Learning to Live in the Tides – Peace in Perpetual Change

“When one door closes, another door opens, but the hallways are a bitch.”

“When one door closes, another door opens, but the hallways are a bitch.” – How to Survive the Loss of a Love

“If you are still looking for that one person that will change your life, look in the mirror.” – Roman Price

There’s a cliché that people speak about that always kind of pissed me off. “The only thing constant is change.” Well, sure. Obviously, I’m not living in a bubble that is void of time and space. I keep getting older as each day approaches the next birthday…but how does hearing that simple sentence make a person feel better when life appears to be in turmoil or in the midst of a huge life transition? Or even a minuscule life transition? Fluctuations of the daily routine is transition in itself. In the analogy of a construction detour, or a massive slowdown of traffic, the GPS may not be able to suddenly announce “a faster route is now available.” What then?

If you’re like me, that saying of “change is constant,” is like hearing someone say, “Well, if this is happening to you, it’s because God thinks you’re strong enough to handle it.” That sort of advice rarely seems to bring empowerment to the person experiencing the effects of change. If anything, I often interpret it as a way for the listener to “stay positive,” and shrug off the heaviness of another’s situation. Life is seldom easy. Even if we were to have all the money and material power in the world, it would not negate the fact that we have to deal with this human mind.

At its worst, this mind craves pleasure and quick fixes, while the ego of the mind wants to control just about anything we can think of. It can bring us to dwell in the past, project into the future, and rarely allow us to arrive in the present. “Living in the moment,” whether we’re in a yoga class, driving to work, or taking a shower, can be one of the most difficult and spiritually demanding tasks. It takes a complete re-configuring of the mind in order to allow it to work for us, rather than against us. It is a daily, moment to moment practice.

In writing this today, I am not seeking to preach about how to “get over” change. That’s impossible. Instead, my aim is to present a reminder that living in transition is our human nature. We were born to be creative, wise, powerful manifestations of the Divine (or the Great Spirit, Source, the Universe, whatever you’d like to call it). Knowing that we are made of cosmic energy from the stars – literally, knowing that the same atomic elements that exist in the stars are present in our bodies – may help us understand that we are meant to be ever evolving and ever transforming to shine even brighter and better than we thought possible.

Being connected by the stars, I feel strongly that the movements in the cosmos have a profound influence upon us. If the subtle change in temperature or seasons can create shifts in the body, it makes sense that the subtle shifts in the alignment of the moon, the stars, and the astrological aspects can affect the planet and its people (we are, after all, living on a floating orb in space).

With the full moon in Pisces last night, I attended a full moon flow at the yoga studio in my hometown. It was a day of crazy, scattered energy in many ways, and one of the first times I actually did not feel up for going to yoga. I had not been sleeping well and felt generally exhausted and emotional. For me, most full moons have either brought a need to go wild and adventure outside, and/or a need to go into deep solitude and quiet reflection. I reached out to friends to come along for class, but they felt energetically similar and decided to pass on the offer. Because I committed to going in advance, I knew I would not be staying back. I also wanted to be there for my mom. She and I took our first class together this past Sunday, and it was a beautiful gift to practice with her and begin witnessing her newfound awakening with and appreciation for yoga. She received her cancer diagnosis at the end of this past May, and we’ve celebrated and mourned the range of good news, bad news, and the combination of both since then. More on that in another post.

In the past few days, my mom has become my greatest teacher in reminding me what this practice gives. She spoke of feeling so deeply relaxed and peaceful; something she “could have used all summer.” She has since come to three classes with me in this week, including a yin class I teach on Tuesdays. In her words, she mentioned the difference between laying down and assuming she is relaxing, versus laying down and feeling a deep peace and relaxation. When we practice conscious relaxation to reverse the damaging effects of stress in our minds and lives, we open ourselves to vibrate at a higher frequency. It is a gift to watch the healing medicine of yoga and meditation begin to work its magic on someone for the first time, especially a loved one who is dear to my heart.

A blessing for the full moon was given at the beginning and end of class: “I move through the cycles, phases, and transitions of my life with grace and peace.”

It was accompanied with a mudra (hand position) related to integrating and balancing the hemispheres of the body; the divine masculine and the divine feminine energy channels that resides in us. The teacher spoke of the moon going in phases and cycles. We twisted and bowed to the dark side of the moon. We honored and paid respect to the dark side we have within us too. We breathed in sacred mountain stance (tadasana), as if we stood by our favorite ocean or lake, syncing our breath with the tides, bathing in the glow of the full moon upon us.

Shortly before this meditative moment, I completely fell on my butt during half-moon posture and laughed. Before that moment, a voice came into my head and asked, “Can you let go? Of all of it? Your relationships, your ideas, your plans?”

The answer was, and always will be, yes.

Everything is in perfect timing.

Appropriately, we came into savasana (corpse pose) at the end of this class, as with the majority of yoga classes. Each time I come into this pose, laying on my spine, letting go of all work in the body, I always feel like I am connecting with death. In this moment of total surrender, I feel a release of all the things I think I am, all that has made up this life thus far and the journey I have traveled. It feels as if nothing has existed but a dream. It brings a return to the truth that I am simply energy, vibrating in space. I am not my name, my age, my job, my body, or my interests. I am the whole manifestation of the universe, created in my being (as are you). In this moment of death, relinquishing all control, I find God. I find Spirit. On this mat, in a room without furniture, in a place of candles, stillness, bodies, and breath, I am in a new moment. This moment, like all moments, is home.

In this next month, I invite you to breathe in your fullness. To hold space for yourself, in your light and in your darkness. To stand on top of your personal mountain, looking out at the trails you have trekked. To honor the blisters and bruises that have touched your body. To honor the marks that have touched your heart. To bow into all of this evidence that you are alive. You are here. You are needed. Exactly as you are. Exactly where you are. I invite you to let yourself go with the tides and let them carry you. Leave your expectations, resentments, attachments, and ideas of right doing and wrong doing on the shore.

A Rumi poem that emanates this feeling:

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field.  I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense.”

1509821_10152740614937077_5258803754892361385_n

With love and gratitude,

~Bonnie

(P.s. here are some full moon insights for the Pisces rising moon,

http://www.mysticmamma.com/full-moon-in-pisces-september-6th-2017/

as well as a link to an astrologer, Kaypacha Lescher, who makes awesome weekly videos about what’s flowing on. 🙂

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCEsXTOCDLXUEZ83wxu9OfpQ)

 

I’m Only Light Because I Have Darkness

The “happy yogi” of light, cannot and does not exist without his/her share of darkness.

I recently read an article called “Not Everyone Who Practices Yoga is Happy (and That’s Okay).” The title alone caught my eye, but I wasn’t quite sure how relevant it would be to me right now. I understood the overall concept that yoga is for processing and experiencing wherever you are at. I’ve cried on the mat, I’ve been angry on the mat, and at my times of grief and loss, when movement itself brought waves of emotion, the only pose I could bring myself to was child’s pose. In reading this headline, I thought, “Well, sure not everyone is happy, but yoga generates a higher level of happiness overall…” It was shortly after that thought, that I noticed I was equating happiness with contentment or peace. The practice can generate more peace for a person, as they accept wherever they are at and flow with it, but having peace doesn’t mean one is happy about the apparent state of their life.

Let’s talk about happiness and sadness in yoga. On a basic level, yoga can help to generate happiness by increasing self awareness on all fronts. By becoming aware of one’s thoughts, the practice can empower a yogi to make choices in which thoughts he/she chooses to focus on, as well as which thoughts to let go of. A practitioner of yoga can start to liberate their mind from thought patterns that get in the way of staying present. If one is balancing on one leg with her eyes closed, unsure if she can keep standing, it’s a lot more difficult to think about whether or not her text message sent before class received an expected reply. In the physical sense, by moving energy that may be blocked in the body, one can free up the body and breath to receive new, cleansing energy. Perhaps one even finds, my personal favorite, that extra bit of magical wonder in the way one’s toes move and support the weight of one’s body; feeling silly and humbled when one stumbles out of half-moon pose time and time again.

Outside of the mat land, I’ve found that we yoga teachers and practitioners often aspire to maintain that wanderlust and wonderful outlook with all that we interact with. I’ve been told that life can often be considered a series of uncomfortable poses, followed by periods of release and ease, integrating what we learned from the tough times. We relish in the goodness, when it comes, because we know how long and how miserable it has often felt to not have that goodness and sense of arriving back home to our peaceful state of being. As a friend of mine once said about having a soulful connection with someone: “It’s like catching a piece of driftwood after treading in the ocean.”

I love Gabrielle Roth’s 5Rhythms practice and philosophy of Waves. Everything goes in waves of chaos and calm; even in the stillness, energy is moving. That energy may or may not always be positive, but the goal in practice, is often to feel whatever that feeling is, and wade in the water until the next wave comes through. In the end, perhaps we will be like a rock that is secure in the sand, allowing the waves to wash away all that is inhibiting us, while inviting incoming waves to bring in the new energy, motivations, and realizations we are seeking. Like Brandi Carlile’s song, “The Eye,” so beautifully states: “You might make it farther, if you learn to stay.”

What I would truly like to address in this idea of the “happy yogi” persona, are some examples of how it has often been misconstrued or misunderstood in my relationships with others. In a previous intimate partnership, I began reading Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff in LoveI asked a question that the book suggested for asking one’s partner (and I now share this question for all of my friends to ask honestly with their loved ones).

 “What’s the hardest part about being in a relationship with me?” I was expecting the answer to be an obvious remark about the distance (as we spent much time apart), but what I received was: “You’re so positive about everything. Sometimes it’s hard to match energy on that level.”

This was shocking to me. For one, I never imagined someone would feel a need to rise up to a certain level of positivity. Similar to the saying that “yoga meets you where you are at,” so too, have I felt the same about all of the lovers that have been beautifully woven in and out of my life. If we are together, I care about you and accept you, just the way you are. Come as you are. Be all of your perfect imperfections. I’m here to learn and grow with you. Let’s celebrate life and laugh a little (or a lot)!

Of all things one might hear as detrimental or challenging to a partner, positivity was surprisingly, a factor in this case. Undoubtedly, my bright spirit had brought smiles to this person’s face, like the morning I called crying about a centipede whose leg I had dismembered while trying to take it outside of the shower. The gentle spirit and reverence for life that I tend to be known for, was something this person admired and appreciated. We instantly apologized for an argument on an issue the night before. A dispute seemed so trivial in the simple moments of starting a new day, being alive, and being moved by the creatures on this Earth. I’ve noticed how that sort of mentality can have a profound effect on others, potentially even shifting their perspective.

In both negative and positive ways.

My partner at the time was receptive to having a “hippie snow white” in their life; one who was marveled with the world. At other times, like this comment of being challenged by dating someone genuinely happy most of the time, I realized that it can be easy for someone to feel shut down in the presence of light. Especially if one is not used to receiving that sort of energy. It can bring up a fear of the unknown or a discomfort that is both intriguing and terrifying. To be around someone with a higher vibrational energy, essentially “stirs the pot” in a new way. If one cannot see or experience happiness in the same way that comes easily for their partner, it may feel like one is “missing” something. Or, perhaps the joyous yogi is holding up a mirror that accentuates someone else’s own darkness, rather than their inherent light. This darkness may be one that a person does not want to acknowledge or deal with.

That is okay, by the way. We are all on our own authentic journey. All things have their own time and place to unfold and rise to the surface. Regardless of who is with us at the moment, we will ultimately face our own battles in our own way, when the time is right, or when we want to. Though the person with are in relationship with may inadvertently expedite or procrastinate the awakening process, Hannah Hart puts it well in her recent book: “We all buffer at our own speed.”

The reason for writing this, when I have never felt such an impulse to write a blog post, is this message that I want to write and speak again and again for anyone who feels unable to relate, or understand how, or why, positive people can be so damn positive. I would not be this light, if I hadn’t faced great darkness. And continue to. Reread that please. Once more.

There have been beautiful times of abundance in my life, where I have felt like I am riding the magic carpet of the universe; taking on new opportunities, traveling to new places, and connecting with other souls in meaningful ways. Those sort of spiritual highs are what can bring me such ecstasy to be alive on the Earth. However, what isn’t always shown on the snapshots of these moments on social media, is the fact that I have faced my demons many times to get to these places (and sometimes they want to come visit again).

I remember a moment in high school, where I laid down in a snow covered forest, the breathtaking moon above in the winter night sky, sobbing over a lover whose path revealed that is was time to divert from mine. Listening to pure silence as the snow fell, I wanted to disappear into the ground. A few years later, a horrible injury left me to experience physical pain that made walking and sitting comfortably impossible, let alone one of my greatest loves: dancing. In other times, I have felt completely unsafe in moments, thinking that the world was about to crash to its end.

Sometimes, this darkness has even felt good; the seductive “badness” of rebelling. The darkness that once led me to have my first cigarette outside a club, after resisting going out at all, distraught over an event that had happened, but leaving the house in a “f*ck the world” mentality. The same darkness that led me to invite a stranger over because I was lonely in a new city, longing for the person I truly loved, whose response to my love confession the night before was, “…it’s late, I should probably go.” In some moments, how badass and sexy I felt! Or how beautifully dramatic it was to drink some bottles of alcohol and feel like a tragic, heartbroken human listening to songs of loss.

Reflecting on those specific moments, more often than not, the darkness has given way to the light. By feeling the lowest of lows and howling from the depths of this body, these little moments that always follow – passing chipmunks, flying dragonflies, calls of blue jays, and the flower that grows alone in the grass – have been godsends in themselves. They are teachers in their own ways. They come at the perfect moments to teach a perfect lesson. Whether I learn it then or later is another story. Over time of practicing and observing in this way, I learned to celebrate this light in its little ways, and then in its major ways. I came to celebrate every human who would share a smile or a story. In that moment of exchange, they could provide the basic desires so many of us want: to be seen and to be heard. To be acknowledged that yes, we are alive and living through this crazy world. We are not alone. Ever.

I found the magic of singing and dancing in community. I discovered how crucial and imperative it is to have others for healing. Solitude, meditation, and prayer definitely have their places in the healing process, but to feel the energy of other humans gathering, to witness their darkness and their light, is remarkable. In writing, I find it nearly impossible to describe. It is in the moments of a circle gathering, that I feel like we are all touching base after living on Earth for this amount of time. “What have YOU learned? I learned part of that last month! I’m still working on this though. You as well? Wow. What do you think about this…I can’t seem to shake that off at all…” and it goes on.

What I hope is emanating through these words is that, when you break down the yogi, she only knows that light because she has seen and felt her utmost darkness. Undoubtedly, she will feel it again. She may be feeling that dark place every day, for moments at a time. The beauty and wonder she has for life may be her mode of operation 85% of the time, but like a yin yang symbol, she cannot be light without darkness, and even in her darkness, it is in her practice over time that she can begin to teach herself to shine. She learns from the teachers before her, and she starts to generate her own light, to bear witness to the light that exists just beyond the shadows. She too, can become a light for others, passing the flame in the dark. Shining can become easier as she progresses on this path of light and love, but through periods of life, that light may have to dim to conserve energy for what needs to be healed within. That is okay. She will welcome it and bow to it. She will bow to it all the same.

I have not experienced the pain and suffering of all beings and their journeys, of course, but what I can say is that we truly are in this together. If we can believe we are worthy of company on this path, if we can open our hearts to the fellow soul travelers our paths cross with, we might just find that we’re not so lost in the woods and alone. There may be someone carrying a flashlight with just enough battery to help lead you back home; you may emerge with more light than either of you thought possible. Suddenly, the detour may become all the more worthwhile.

May you be blessed in your light, and in your darkness, as one.

~Bonnie

20689885_10214184864081298_6144048553812026450_o